By Hilary White 

  October 25, 2007 ( – One of three young men in Winnipeg, Manitoba, charged with murdering a young pregnant woman in February this year after she refused to have an abortion, has pleaded guilty and received a ten year sentence, the Winnipeg Free Press reports. As well, this past Oct. 2nd, in Toronto, 25-year-old Aysun Sesen and her seven-month unborn child were killed by Sesen’s boyfriend after he stabbed her numerous times. The murders have intensified calls for legislation to protect unborn victims of violence.
  Two adults and a youth were charged in the Winnipeg extremely vicious beating death of Roxanne Fernando, 24. The youth, who cannot be named, pleaded guilty and was given maximum sentence possible under the Youth Criminal Justice Act: six years in prison and four years of parole.
  The court called the killing a “callous, well-planned execution.” Crown attorney Brent Davidson read the facts to the court saying Fernando had discovered she was pregnant a few weeks before her killing. She was pressured to have an abortion but changed her mind, a decision that resulted in her death.
“It would be the foetus that would drive the planned and deliberate killing of Ms. Fernando,” Davidson said. The young man, who was seventeen at the time, was offered money and a television to carry out the plot.
  The two adults, Nathanael Mark Plourde, 19, and Jose Manuel Toruno, 19, remain before the courts. They face a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years should they be found guilty.

  In the Toronto killings doctors performed an emergency caesarean section but were unable to save Aysun Sesen’s baby. The Toronto Sun reported that if Sesen’s daughter had drawn a breath outside her mother’s womb, she would have been declared a human being and a second murder charge could have been laid against Coceli.
  Under Canadian law, it is impossible to charge the murderers of the two unborn children. Unlike the US, Canadian criminal law does not acknowledge the existence of the child before birth.
  The legal situation of the unborn has aroused the anger of pro-life activists in the case. Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) demanded that the Conservative government bring forward legislation similar to that of the US.
  Hughes said “The murderous acts were directed at both mother and baby. The government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the grandparents who have lost both their daughters and their grandchildren.”
  Mary Ellen Douglas, National Organizer of CLC said, “Roxanne died to protect her unborn child. Both she and her baby deserve to see justice done to the perpetrator.”  The Toronto Sun and CTV.News have both reported that Aysun Sesen’s family has asked for a meeting with the Prime Minister with the goal being a change in the law to recognize unborn victims of violence.

  Last year, Conservative MP Leon Benoit put forward a Private Member’s Bill protecting Unborn Victims of Violence that was deemed non-votable by the standing committee on procedural and house affairs.

  Benoit had pushed the bill because of two 2005 cases of pregnant Edmonton women being killed – Liana White, 29, and Olivia Marie Talbot, 19. The families both decried the fact there was no recourse to any justice for their grandchildren.

  A Freedom of Information enquiry by the National Post revealed that Justice Minister Vic Toews was warned in an unsigned briefing note on C-291 from government bureaucrats that, “Any change to the definition of a ‘human being’ in the Criminal Code could have the effect of criminalizing abortion.”

  The note went on, reports the Post, to state, “The government has no plans to propose any reforms in this area of the law.” The Post’s Peter ONeill linked the latter sentence to Harper’s Jan. 17 statement, “I’ll use whatever influence I have in Parliament to be sure that such a matter doesn’t come to a vote.”

  Toew’s instruction to the parliamentary committee that subsequently declared the bill unvotable, however, did not mention abortion, despite that being the real reason the government wanted the bill killed.  Instead the Justice Minister’s written advice vaguely stated that the bill violated the Constitution including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  The Justice Minister’s advice was seen as a clear ruse, but the committee buckled to the political manipulation and voted 7-1, with four abstentions, to uphold its original decision.

  Fr. Raymond De Souza, a priest who is a regular columnist in the National Post, wrote that the “desire to maintain our permissive abortion regime should not prevent the criminal law from addressing the reality of crimes against pregnant women”.
“A crime against an expectant mother is something different—there is real trauma to the mother, if she survives the violence, resulting from the injury or death to her child—to say nothing of the child,” De Souza wrote. “Without the child” in the Roxanne Fernando case, “there would have been no crime.”

  Campaign Life Coalition, in its most recent newsletter, states, “studies have shown that pregnant women are more likely to be victims of abuse, violence and murder than women who are not pregnant, and are indeed targeted precisely because they are expecting. They and their unborn children both deserve greater protection in law. In no way would this legislation infringe on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion; in fact it reinforces a woman’s right to bring her unborn child to term, and could act as a deterrent to those considering injuring or killing the mother and/or unborn child.”
  A recent Environics poll showed 72 per cent of Canadians would support legislation making it a separate crime to injure or kill an unborn child during a criminal act against the mother. Women polled slightly higher at 75 per cent.
  Read related coverage:

  Murder of Pregnant Woman in Toronto Ignites Debate on Recognition of Life of Unborn